ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott pretended to wipe his face with a towel following his signature “feed me” gesture to celebrate his first touchdown.
The star Dallas running back got to hand the ball to his mother twice on his second score after the original TD ruling was reversed, with his mom kissing his facemask on the exchange that counted from her spot on the front row of a field-level box behind the end zone.
Those happy moments were gone after a 35-30 loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, the day before a federal appeals court hearing that could result in the lifting of an injunction that is allowing Elliott to play as he fights the NFL’s six-game suspension stemming from a domestic case in Ohio.
Elliott said he wasn’t sure if he would attend Monday’s arguments before the NFLn New Orleans. If the three-judge panel moves quickly and grants the NFL’s emergency request to overrule a Texas judge’s injunction, he could be sitting as early as next weekend at home against Green Bay.
“I’m not talking about it,” Elliott said when asked how the looming hearing might affect his upcoming week.
In the first half against the Rams (3-1), it sure looked as if Elliott would have plenty of reasons to smile despite the looming hearing. He had a 10-yard scoring catch and a 1-yard plunge after the initial sprint for the pylon from the 2 was called a score and overruled on replay.
Last year’s NFL rushing leader had 56 yards at halftime and another 41 yards receiving. The Cowboys led 24-16 and had scored on all four possessions.
But Elliott finished with less than 100 yards rushing for the third straight game, matching his longest such drought from last season. For the third time in four games, he didn’t have a breakaway run.
The final numbers: 85 yards on 21 carries and four catches for 54 yards.
“What I did today really isn’t important. What’s important is the team wins,” Elliott said. “I don’t care how many touchdowns or whatever the stats were. It was a tough loss for sure. But it’s early in the season.”
Through the first four games, Elliott didn’t have to wonder if he would get to play. The 22-year-old former Ohio State star already knew he was eligible for the opener when U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted his request for an injunction blocking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ruling.
But the appeals court’s decision to hear arguments on the NFL’s emergency request raises the possibility that the league could get a favorable ruling, which would force Elliott’s attorneys to scramble to keep him on the field.
The NFL concluded after a yearlong investigation that Elliott had several physical confrontations with his girlfriend at the time in Ohio last year. Prosecutors didn’t pursue the case, citing conflicting evidence. Elliott has denied the allegations under oath.
After four weeks last season, Elliott had taken over the rushing lead for good. He was in the middle of a career-best four straight 100-yard games.
Now the fourth overall pick from a year ago faces a growing deficit — and the prospect of a suspension that would take him out of the running for good in trying to defend his rushing title.
The Cowboys (2-2) are already one loss from the total for last season’s top-seeded NFC team.
“A lot of things have been hurting us this year,” Elliott said. “We haven’t been good on first or second down. We’ve had a lot of pre-snap penalties. We’ve had a lot of negative runs. We did a good job in the first half but we didn’t do a good job at all in the second half.”
The change wiped out his happy moments, and now it’s back to the courtroom.